It is “100 per cent” certain this year’s Bahrain grand prix is going ahead, according to Bernie Ecclestone.
However, violence has kicked off once again in the island Kingdom, as thousands of anti-government protesters mark the two-year anniversary of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
The latest international reports say at least two have already died in the new clashes between the protesters and security forces.
F1 chief executive Ecclestone said earlier this month that he was “100 per cent” sure his sport will race in Bahrain as scheduled this April.
“We’re scheduled to have an event there so we’ll be there the same as last year,” the Briton, referring to Bahrain, said during a recent visit to Dubai.
Four-time former world champion Alain Prost has admitted hindsight proves it was a “good decision” for F1 to race in Bahrain earlier this year.
But the great Frenchman, whose record of 51 wins was eclipsed only by Michael Schumacher, admits that in the days and weeks before the highly controversial event in the troubled Gulf kingdom, the right course was not so clear.
“I remember in 1985 when we went to South Africa, as a human and a driver you were attacked because you were there,” 57-year-old Prost, referring to apartheid, told the Telegraph at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “The main thing is, is it worse not to go? Or is it better to go and try and help people to make things more normal? I am in the middle because I did not have all the information,” Prost said.
He said he actually sympathised with both sides of the argument, but ultimately decided not to go to the Bahrain grand prix.
“To be honest I didn’t want to,” said Prost, “because with all the controversy it’s better to be outside. But I don’t want to say we shouldn’t have been there or we should have gone there.
“I think, in the end, when everything went well, you can say ‘ok, it was a good decision’,” he smiled.
There was an element of publicity in Force India’s decision to sit out a practice session in Bahrain last month, Bernie Ecclestone has charged.
The F1 chief executive had already denied the Silverstone based team was deliberately ignored by F1’s television cameras in qualifying, a day after Force India skipped practice due to security fears.
“The protesters weren’t there to attack anybody,” Ecclestone told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt over lunch in London recently. “They were going to use the event to demonstrate and get their word out.”
He revealed that, when Force India expressed fears about travelling in Bahrain at night, he offered to accompany the team members without security personnel.
“We will drop you and I will come back alone in the car again with no escort,” Ecclestone said, recalling his conversation with the Silverstone based team. In contrast, he said he “wouldn’t have wanted to go into those streets when we had the problems in London” last year.
“Force India wanted people to write about them,” the 81-year-old charged.